Determined Lappe Inspiration To All
Boulder - There is a saying that head coach Ceal Barry has been known to utter to her players, more than just every now and then: "Hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work hard."
And for the Colorado women's basketball team, maybe nobody knows this better than senior guard/forward Linda Lappe.
One of the Buffaloes' three team captains, Lappe certainly has the talent to compete in the Big 12, and this year has established herself as one of the conference's top players. But when looking closer at the 6-footer from Morning Sun, Iowa, there is one thing that distinguishes her from almost any other player on the court - her work ethic.
"Sure, I have a certain amount of talent," Lappe states, "but everybody we play against is talented. (My talent) is definitely not the most on the team now, nor has it been since I've been here. But I figure if you come in with the right attitude and desire, you can be ready to do anything."
And for Lappe, that's exactly what she's done. After an incredible freshman campaign in 1998-99, when she was named the Buffs' offensive MVP for leading the team in scoring (10.7), free throws made (91) and assists (110/3.8), her career was quickly rising, but soon became jeopardized by serious injury.
In CU's home opener that next season, she suffered a fractured patella, causing her to miss the entire year, as she utilized her redshirt and recovered from the injury. After earning her way back into the lineup during 2000-01, she recaptured her old form and went on to lead the conference in free throw shooting at 85.9 percent. She also averaged 15.8 points over two games in the Big 12 tournament, finishing with a 7.0 average on the year.
However, during the offseason, Lappe was forced to undergo surgery to repair an osteochrondal defect in her left talus, which couldn't heal properly due to poor blood circulation. Missing the first 11 games of the 2001-02 season, Lappe admits that she struggled a bit, but more importantly that the challenge of getting healthy again was most difficult.
"It was pretty tough sitting out," she recalls. "Missing all those games was really hard in that I could only watch. I was used to competing against other girls everyday. Pretty soon, I was competing against myself to come back and regain my old form.
"It was hard to get confidence in my ability and my body," she adds. "I really didn't know what I could and couldn't do. It's all kind of new when you first come back."
But now, with the four career-threatening surgeries behind her, Lappe has been completely healthy for over a year. To make things even worse for opponents, Lappe says she currently feels like a better player than she was during her inaugural season. Though her numbers may not be as impressive, or she may not move like she used to, Lappe has once again become a player the Buffs rely on.
Through 23 games this season, Lappe has started 22, as she is averaging 7.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. An illustration and direct result of her hustle, she also boasts a team-high 29 steals and is third in blocks (7).
"When I was a freshman, I was quicker and faster, and I could rely on that," Lappe states. "But by sitting out a year and missing some games, I was able to see the technical aspects and break the game down. I am not as quick or fast now, but I see angles of the game better and I think I'm stronger."
While Lappe has traded in her old speed for strength and wiser knowledge, she has certainly not lost the touch from the line that helped make her one of CU's all-time great freshmen. In the Buffs' 61-57 win over Oklahoma last week, Lappe nailed 10-of-10 free throws on her way to scoring a game-high 16 points. Currently, she stands fourth in the Big 12 in free throw percentage.
Now, as Lappe hits the final stretch in her basketball career at CU, those who have witnessed her remarkable comeback can't help but be inspired. Through all her difficulty, Lappe has risen to the challenge, teaching lessons to the people around her, and maybe most importantly, to herself.
"Anything can be achieved if you try and work hard at it," Lappe adds. "I am very proud that I've proved to myself that I can do anything if I want to do it. If you know that, you can go a long way in life."
In Lappe's case, when the talent was knocked down, the hard work picked her up.
Colorado takes on Missouri on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Colorado vs. Missouri Game Notes
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